Durban - Through sporting events, political rallies and even beauty pageants, Curries Fountain played a vital role in facilitating the interaction of different races during apartheid.
To showcase its rich history, the 1860 Heritage Centre launched the Curries Fountain Exhibition Room at its museum in Derby Street on Saturday.
Curries Fountain became the epicentre of non-racial sport in the early 1960s when the Federation Professional League (FPL) was formed.
The league brought together a number of high-profile football teams from across the country such as Orlando Pirates, Berea, Sundowns and Avalon Athletics.
Other sporting codes included cricket, golf and athletics.
Some information displayed in the exhibition was provided by the authors of the book Curries Fountain, Sport, Politics and Identity, Sam Moodley, Leonard Rosenberg and Goolam Vahed.
The trio documented the story of this ground through hundreds of photographs, with two of the main photographic contributors, Rafs Mayet and the late Ranjith Kally, capturing events from the 1970s.
Curries Fountain Sports Development Centre chairperson Dr Aubrey Mokoape said bringing to life its history was “incredible”.
“There is so much of our history at Curries Fountain and elsewhere in the country which is not documented and so many people have so much important history in their heads but many don’t write their experiences.
“So many people are passing away and leaving us without their legacy and experiences,” Mokoape said.
“If we don’t document, don’t keep our history alive, then our children will get lost and be tempted to repeat the mistakes made by us.
“Curries Fountain represents more than bricks and water, it is the spirit of our grandparents, who in the most difficult times were able to come together and display fortitude.
"They were able to come together to create an institution, a place where they could gather and narrate their problems, comfort each other, discuss their difficulties when they were ‘under the whip’, exploited and denied their rights. It was a place of comfort,” added Mokoape.
“It is that spirit that they had that we need to carry forward to the future generation.”
Athletics champ Karamchand Hiraman spoke highly of a group of teachers who ran the then Natal high school and primary school sports association.
“They made Curries Fountain a home for not only the teachers, but for thousands of children taking part in various codes of sport. These were men that came together for the love of sport to form the first Indian sports association.
“If it were not for these teachers who came together in 1969, I don’t think I would have realised my true potential,” he said.
Coming from a cricket-playing background, Harold Samuel said Currie’s served as a nucleus.
“Not many people know that Curries Fountain was probably the first venue to hold a day/night cricket match in the 1960s. I remember, ‘Big-Boy’ Haffejee was able to convince businesses and the municipality to have the floodlights erected,” he said.
“We must also not exclude the fact that Curries Fountain had a cycling track and a golf course. It was one venue creating a platform for multiple sporting codes.”
After hearing about the memories that the grounds held for many, 1860 Heritage Centre board member and spokesperson Satish Dhupelia said the government should declare it a national heritage site. “It played a vital role in promoting non-racial activities,” he said.